When we have to act in the world, make decisions, there are a lot of bases we use. Often wrongly. And we need to call it out and move on.
As I pointed out before, Kahneman tells us how we often make decisions on less than expert reflection, more so when we’re tired, and create stories about why we do it. If we’re not experts, we shouldn’t trust our ‘gut’, but we do. And we will use received wisdom, rightly or wrongly, to justify our choices. Yet sometimes the beliefs we have about how things work are wrong.
While there’s a lot of folk science around that’s detrimental to society and more, I want to focus on folk science that undermines our ability to assist people in achieving their goals, supporting learning and performance. Frankly, there are a lot of persistent myths that are used to justify design decisions that are just wrong. Dr. Will Thalheimer, for instance, has soundly disabused Dale’s Cone. Yet the claims continue. There’re more: learning styles, digital natives, I could go on. They are not sound bases for learning design!
It goes on: much of what poses under ‘brain-based’ learning, that any interaction is good, that high production values equal deep design, that knowledge dump and test equals learning. Folks, if you don’t know, don’t believe it. You have to do better!
Sure, some of it’s compelling. Yes, learners do differ. That doesn’t mean a) that there are valid instruments to assess those differences, or more importantly b) that you should teach them differently. Use the best learning principles, regardless! And using the year someone’s born to characterize them really is pretty coarse; it almost seems like discrimination.
Look, intuition is fine in lieu of any better alternative, but when it comes to designing solutions that your organization depends on, doing anything less than science-based design is frankly fraudulent. It’s time for evidence-based design!
Jesse Martin says
Don’t think that your myths and poor design are limited to work based training folk. Having worked for many years trying to improve teaching in universities, I can tell you that myth and misconception are alive and well in our sector as well (at least for the scholarship of teaching). As long as we have teacher cognition to contend with, we will have these problems. The most used source of curriculum design in universities is what the teacher experienced when they were being taught – after all, have a look at what that brilliant teaching produced.
urbie delgado says
I used to be a strong believer in learning styles. Whilst at Intel in the 90s I watched with awe how they’d ramp high technology manufacturing facilities with the flip of a switch. New hires and internal tranfers to P85X (Pentium) factories would be given a learning styles questionnaire. Their preferred learning style would be communicated to the trainers they’d work with in the factory to gain certification on a particular process component. It worked: 0% to high 90% yield in from the get-go. Compared to how I saw it done at places like Motorola and AMD it was amazing.
Anyway, now my perspective is we weren’t identifying a person’s learning styles per se so much as suggesting a class of learning strategies that might work better than others.
One thing I think that can really hinder designers/developers is the curse of knowledge: how we create silos for ourselves. I’m talking about using what’s worked before over and over. This is especially a problem when we team with other designers. Agreement on strategies and designs can lead to, at best, mediocrity.
At a meeting yesterday my team had a watershed moment: we talked a problem out and asked probing questions about how a certain process worked. One thing that was different this time around: generating heat by asking what @JaneBozarth calls “unscripted questions.”